The Short Story, Mirrors, Mirrors explains the challenge of interpreting reality in a warped world, where a child walks through a confusing playground of distorting mirrors and experiences only to find peace with a true mirror.
It’s a challenge to identify reality when the world appears out to “get you”. I know this well having a childhood in many ways outside the social norms and an inquiring mind. Add to this the human pride we are all saddled with – the one that fights to prevent us acknowledging our own failings – and this task becomes impossible, without a solid, reliable reference. Called a “control” in scientific experiments, in this story the man (representing Jesus) shows how by referencing Truth in a good mirror, without preconceptions or masks we can always measure reality accurately.
The boy couldn’t wait to get to the fair. Every Easter the ferris wheel, clowns, sideshows and circus would come to town and for as long as he could remember his parents would take him. It was the one thing that he looked forward to once the excitement of Christmas had waned.
“Papa, it’s only 3 days to go now!” he reminded his father.
“Yes, son. We’ll be sure to get there again this year. Never you mind!” he reassured the boy.
First up would be the candy floss, and the hot dogs. His father always made sure that the family was well fed.
Then the ferris wheel before the queues got too long, and the clowns at the circus always had them laughing. Those clowns really were crazy at times, falling over and bumping into each other. The boy loved their huge shoes that flopped around as they tried to walk, and the whole family always laughed along with the rest of the crowd.
They’d often follow one of these clowns walking on stilts along the outside paths just to marvel at how high he was, well above all of the people below. How did they do it, he wondered.
Then after the show was done and the rest of the family were tiring, the father would look down at the boy and smile . . . he’d raise an eyebrow as if to say, “Are you ready?” and the boy would smile and nod.
“Always ready, Papa!” was the intuition between the two.
Since he was as young as he could remember he had always been fascinated by the mirrors. To look into one mirror and see his face squeeze up into a tiny shape made him laugh.
“Look Papa! I’m so small!” he would scream with joy at watching the distortion.
Then again to another mirror . . . “Look Papa I’m so fat now!”
The father always enjoyed seeing his son so happy in the Hall of Mirrors. While it was an annual joy for the boy to dance and laugh before the distorting mirrors, it was a delight for him too to see his son happy.
This year there was a new door in the Hall of Mirrors . . . but it was an extra $1.00. They paused and considered it for a moment. The father though denied the boy the chance to enter.
“Son, it is the end of the day and we do not have the money . . . another time eh?” and he made as if to walk off.
The boy paused and thought longer about this. He had a dollar in his pocket. It was his own savings and he was tossing up whether or not to spend it to see the new mirror. The urge was there. He had the money. He was so intensely curious. His father nodded that it was OK for him to go, so he walked straight up and paid the attendant to enter.
The attendant took his money then warned him that this mirror was a very dangerous and scary mirror-room, and that he would have to cover his face so that the spooks never knew who he was. The boy nodded in compliance and tried to calm his nerves that were getting a little on edge.
He ushered the boy into a dark room and put something over his head, and shoulders. “Go in there, son. Don’t get a fright though, and whatever you do, make sure you are ready to fight whoever will be out to get you!”
The boy walked out of the dark room and straight into a huge room covered in mirrors. He screamed aloud for there was the scariest black face with horrible fangs for teeth in a black cape screaming back at him. He raised both hands to protect himself and the creature he was facing did the same. He turned to the left and there was another one just the same about to attack him. Terrified, he turned to the right and there was yet another terrible sight – again he was about to be attacked by a screaming devil!
By now the boy’s heart was racing and he could only think to turn around and escape this nightmare. He turned around to exit the room of mirrors when the realised that the door was now closed and he was facing yet another horrendous sight! He was stuck, surrounded by horrible things all out to attack him and he now had no way of escape.
Then the lights went out and it was so dark he couldn’t see.
He sensed the presence of a man beside him and thought that the attendant had returned.
The voice beside him was reassuring and the boy listened as the man spoke.
“Can you feel your face?” he was asking the boy.
The boy raised his hands to touch his cheeks, but he could feel something else instead. He tried to touch his head but instead found something that felt like string or rope . . . no it was hair, but it wasn’t his. He put his hands to his chin and could feel something like a mask.
“Why don’t you take it off?” the man suggested. “You might learn something!”
The boy did exactly that and in the darkness he felt the mask, and the cape in his hands.
There was some shouting outside and then lights came back on. There he was, in a room with mirrors on all sides perfectly reflecting himself, standing there holding a scary mask and cape.
He laughed aloud at his stupidity, for he realised now that he was scared by himself in a mask!
Now he was angry at the attendant and the mirror sideshow for having fooled him and scaring him like they did and even at his young age he determined to tell off those people outside for scaring people with their mirrors.
Readying himself to march out and have his say, he recalled the last words of the man who spoke to him in the darkness. “You might learn something!”
What did he mean by that?
The boy took a step forward to the mirror and looked carefully at himself. He looked like himself. He moved to one side and the mirror repeated his movement accurately. He determined that this was no trick mirror – this was a good mirror. He did the same with the mirrors on the other walls and could see that they too were all true mirrors although they repeated his image many times going back on all sides.
No, the mirrors weren’t the problem – it was the mask that was the problem. Now he was angry at the mask and the black cape. He would now tell the attendant off for giving him a scary mask.
But then he recalled the advice that the attendant had given him, “Whatever you do, make sure you are ready to fight whoever will be out to get you!”
It wasn’t the mask that tricked him, it was the set-up. He was set up to be scared and to fight and HE CHOSE to do what he did. If he was to go through it all again the same he would never be scared because he would have known that the mirrors were good and it was simply him wearing a mask.
Hmmmm, he thought about this long and hard. The man was right. He did learn something.
On the way out the boy looked at the attendant taking a dollar off another child. He watched and listened as he heard those words again, “Whatever you do, make sure you are ready to fight whoever will be out to get you!”
He wondered whether they lights would go out again at just the right time for that person to “learn something” and whether the man would help them too to realise all about the mask and cape or maybe whether they were smarter than him and would work it all out for themselves.
The family was leaving the fair when the boy stopped them all, “Wait! Papa! It’s the man. I know it’s him! Hear that? ‘Mirrors! Mirrors!’ It’s the man!”
“It’s just a man selling hand mirrors, son, and we don’t have any money left” the father explained.
The boy looked through the crowds and saw just enough of the man selling the mirrors to see him smiling back at him. It was almost as if the man knew that he would be trying to get a peek at him through the crowds. Then the man slipped a little wink at the boy, and carried on selling his mirrors. “Mirrors, mirrors!”
They were debriefing on the way home. The boy’s sisters talked about the horse rides and the elephants in the circus. His father talked about the coconut he won and the stuffed doll he got from shooting the moving ducks. They all knew that it took him $5.00 to finally win it and that the prize wasn’t even worth $1.00 but they all had a hoot at the fair. They always did!
The boy though was quiet, lost in thought.
The boy’s mother spoke, “That’s funny. He’s given me two mirrors but I only bought one!”
This had the boy’s attention. “You bought a mirror?” he asked incredulously.
“Yes, he was a lovely man too. We talked a lot while you were all having fun. I thought it only a nice thing to do because no-one else seemed to be interested in his mirrors. Funny that he gave me two. It can’t have been an accident. I wonder why he did that? Such a nice man!”
The boy asked if he could see one and the mother handed him back a little hand-held mirror. He looked and the image was perfect. He poked his tongue out at the mirror and it did the same thing back at him. He glared at it with a big scary face and it did the same thing back at him. He smiled and the mirror smiled too.
“Can I have this one please Mama?” the boy asked.
“Yes of course, son. I only need one”.
This little hand-held mirror would remind him of the day that he learned that distorted mirrors are fun, but it’s the true mirror that matters – and to NEVER be fooled by others or masks!